On January 19, Anglican New Testament scholar Scot McKnight posted this reply to a recent Gospel Coalition article penned by "Sydney Anglican" Michael Jensen entitled Nine Things You Should Really Know About Anglicanism. Though the Sydney Anglicans tend to be "snake-belly low", and while I find fault with their support of eucharistic lay presidency, I tend to share their Reformed theology. I found Jensen's article to be faithful to Anglican history and therefore posted a link to the article here.
Readers of McKnight's article may find themselves wondering if he meant to augment Jensen's article or refute it. McKnight begins by summarizing Jensen's 9 points:
1. Since the arrival of Christianity in Britain in the 3rd century, British Christianity has had a distinct flavor and independence of spirit, and was frequently in tension with Roman Catholicism.
2. The break with Rome in the 16th century had political causes, but also saw the emergence of an evangelical theology.
3. Anglicanism is Reformed.
4. Scripture is the supreme authority in Anglicanism.
5. Justification by faith alone is at the heart of Anglican soteriology.
6. In Anglican thought, the sacraments are “effectual signs” received by faith.
7. The Anglican liturgy—best encapsulated in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer—is designed to soak the congregation in the Scriptures, and to remind them of the priority of grace in the Christian life.
8. Anglicanism is a missionary faith, and has sponsored global missions since the 18th century.
9. Global Anglicanism is more African and Asian than it is English and American.
However, McKnight wrote that the purpose of his reply to Jensen is "to add one more point, something he did not mention that puts it all into a slightly different — broader — context and one I’m sure he’d affirm." That point is as follows:
. . . I’d like to go behind these to what is even more primary:
Anglicanism affirms the historic Christian creedal faith. It is catholic in this sense.
So I ask, Where’s Jesus as a Person in this sketch? Where’s God the Father as a Person? Where’s the Holy Spirit as a Person? Father, Son, Spirit… That is, the first element of Anglicanism is that we affirm the creed and the historic faith of the church and that faith is belief in God — Father, Son and Spirit — and the church God has created.
We confess every week in fellowship with one another…
Not (by the way) We/I believe in the Anglican Church and its history and its special ideas and the Reformation and the doctrines of grace (except, let it be known, in the particular configuration of the following and its various articulations in Thirty Nine Articles [as the grounding]):
But We/I believe in one God the Father … one Lord Jesus Christ… in the Holy Ghost … and only then do we confess our faith in the church, but it is expansive: one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. The Anglican Church flows out of the creed about the church and must be understood from that basis.
The first thing to know about Anglicanism is that We believe in the glory of knowing God personally in the face of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit who has created the church.
In support of his argument he quotes Articles I through VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, which highlights the catholicity of the English Reformation (and does so to this day).
The thing I want to stress here is both the catholicity of the English Reformation and the catholicity of the English Reformation, and unfortunately, it is all too possible to construe McKnight's reply as stressing only the former. Oftentimes when we hear or read Anglicans employing language like the necessity to put Anglo-Protestant claims "into a slightly different — broader — context", or that the Creed is "more primary" than the Articles (not true, say scholars such as J.I. Packer), or that "the Anglican Church flows out of the creed about the church and must be understood from that basis", what's behind it is an attempt to paint Anglicanism as some sort of tertium quid which is neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant. Readers may want to look at the Protestant Face of Anglicanism archives here for a discussion about what Fr. Paul Zahl has written about all that, and this article by Alister McGrath as well.
It is also significant to note the three Articles that follow almost on the heels of the 6 "catholic" articles McKnight references. After shoring up this section of the Articles on the Creed and Scripture in Articles 7 and 8, we read:
IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin.
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, p¢vnæa sapk¢s, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.
X. Of Free-Will.
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
From these three Reformational Articles flow the Protestant (and conservative) face of Anglicanism, which was clearly Jensen's goal to demonstrate. Almost all Anglo-Catholics, many Roman Catholics, all Eastern Orthodox, all conservative Anglican Arminians and all liberal Anglicans reject the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion principally because of these and other anti-Pelagian/anti-Semipelagian statements of faith found in this Fornulary (e.g., Article 17). These statements, or so the drafters of the Articles believed, reflect biblical soteriology, and I would argue that biblical soteriology is just as "primary" as biblical triadology and chistology, as they are all intimately related. It's not enough to know who God us without considering what it was that He accomplished for us in the atonement. Being and Act are one in the Godhead. It will be interesting to see if Jensen so responds to McKnight.
A reader sends this question:
The Anglican Church has its appeal, but there are a couple of issues that I bump up against. One of them is the church's habit of addressing clergy as "Father". Since Jesus clearly said "Call no man Father", I have a hard time with the Anglican and Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Some Anglicans asked me what I call the man that was married to my mother, but I believe that Jesus was clearly talking in a religious context, not a familial one. How is it that the Anglican Church violates what seems to be a fairly clear statement of our Lord?? Any thoughts?
Dear reader, yes, I do have a couple of thoughts. The first is that certain Anglicans -- but I am not one of them -- would agree with you. These Anglicans are typically on the "snake-belly low" side, basically Presbyterians with prayer books, Puritan types who detest anything remotely "Romish", like calling a presbyter a "priest" or addressing him as "father." So, if you did become an Anglican, you would find at least some kindred spirits in the Puritan party. (I'm using "Puritan" here, by the way, in a purely descriptive sense, not a pejorative one.)
My other thought is that those Anglicans who've asked you what you call the man that married your mother have effectively dismantled the exegetical argument, for it proves too much. Your response is that "Jesus was clearly talking in a religious context, not a familial one", but I don't think that really does much for your case, mainly because it's igoring the context in which the command to "call no man 'father'" is found. Let's have a look at the passage, which appears in Matthew 23:
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,a]"> and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbib]"> by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.c]"> 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
What is the point being made by Jesus here? Is it about inappropriate honorifics or rather about the importance of humility? Verse 12 contains your answer. It's clearly about not pridefully glorying in titles. Jesus employs a particular extreme rhetorical device here, like he does throughout the Gospels, with a view toward making a point, and here the point is clearly stated in v. 12. It's somewhat similar to the device he uses when he said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” Is Jesus really telling us not to attend to the funeral of our parents? Hardly. And neither is he instructing us not to refer to our pastor as "father." I mean, why shouldn't we refrain from calling our pastor "pastor". For we have only one pastor. See how it works?
Is there no sense in which church leaders can be called "father", when St. Paul himself wrote, "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel."? How can we call no man "teacher" when the gift of teaching is listed as one of the spiritual gifts? Are we to refrain from calling a seminary professor an "instructor"? Really?
So yeah, your argument proves too much, and really doesn't account for either the context in which the statement "call no man 'father'" is found or for the fuller testimony of Holy Scripture.
There are my thoughts, for what they're worth. And here's an article from a Catholic web site that goes into further detail: Call No Man "Father"?
H/T to fellow chaplain and Facebook friend Randy Demary. I am posting this in part as a further reply to Kerby Rials.
Here. Ensuing combox discussion is worth reading as well.
Worth the time. On a related note, ex-Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee has gone on record as saying that states do not need to obey the US Supreme Court if that court's ruling is that state laws prohibiting gay marriage are unconstitutional. Wherever you stand on the right of gays to have some sort of state-recognized union, Huckabee is right, and nullification is coming back to the forefront of national political discussion, whether the Federals and their left-liberal enablers like it or not. States, county sheriffs and even individual citizens all around the country are currently nullifying, by disobeying, a number of laws they deem unconstitutional and/or irrational. There is more such disobedience to come, I guarantee it. As evidenced by such abominable law as the Obamacare contraception mandate, the churches of Christ here in the United States will increasingly be forced to jump on the nullification bandwagon whethery THEY like it or not, for we must obey God rather than men. The time for "conservative" deference to an increasingly illegitimate liberal state is over. No sovereign but Jesus.
On December 21 of last year, Assemblies of God pastor and missionary Kerby Rials posted a critical response to the article How I Got There: An Evangelical Converts to Anglicanism, to which I will respond here. (The article was written by a certain “Fr. Doug”, who was the vicar at All Saints Anglican Church in San Antonio at the time of the article’s first publication. I have yet to find his last name.) Before responding to Pastor Rials, however, I want to extend the right hand of fellowship to him by thanking God for his mission to plant Evangelical churches in Belgium, and for the irenic tone of his response to the article. Pastor Rials and I have become Facebook friends, though we have as yet to interact there. I think he will find after reading my reply here that he has more in common with certain Anglicans than he thinks. In fact, a goodly number of charismatic Evangelicals from AOG and Vineyard ranks have become Anglicans. Many of them are church planters themselves and seek to perpetuate Three Streams Anglicanism in North America and beyond.
So, now that I’ve offered the rose of friendship to Pastor Rials, I would like to turn his attention to the thorns. His response begins:
I read your story with interest, and felt led to leave you a response. In looking over your account of your conversion, I could not find, what seemed to me, to be a strong justification of Anglican theology as opposed to evangelical protestant theology. As I see it, these are the principal concerns:
You noted, first of all, that "the priest is a father and the parishioners are his children. He is responsible for raising and nuturing (sic) them." This contradicts, it seems to me, the New Testament passages speaking of the priesthood of every believer, and the fact that there are no priests in the New Testament at all. The collegiality and the equality of the believers in the New Testament does not concur with the hierarchical system practiced in Anglicanism. It creates a barrier between the believer and Christ, inserting an hierarchical priesthood.
Classical Anglicanism in fact holds to the priesthood of all believers as one of the key Reformational distinctives that fueled the English Reformation. However, like so many in the baptistic and free church traditions, Pastor Rials illogically concludes from the few New Testament data which speak to the issue of the priesthood of believers that some form of democratic egalitarianism is implied. He sees no “hierarchical system” in the New Testament when in fact there is hierarchy to be seen just about anywhere you look. For example, it was the apostles and the elders who convened the Jerusalem Council, not the “priesthood of believers” at large. We see hierarchy set forth in the listing of spiritual gifts concerning church leadership seen in I Cor. 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11-16. Of these leaders, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes, “Obey . . . and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”
Though revisionist Anglo-Catholics would demur, we would agree with Pastor Rials that there is no sacerdotal priesthood in the New Testament. There is, however, a “presbyterate”. The English word “priest” is etymologically related to the word “presbyter”, so there it is perfectly acceptable to call an elder of the church a “priest”, so long as we stipulate that the “priests” of the New Testament were not sacrificing priests. That being said, St. Paul was not averse to seeing a priestly aspect of his ministry, for, as he writes in Romans 15: 15-17, “. . . I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (NASB) The word there is hierourgounta, literally, “ministering as a priest”, as the NASB literally translates it, and if it is possible for a church leader to do priestly service in one sense, why not more? I would recommend to Pastor Rials that he read the Conciliar Anglican blog article On the Eucharist: Why We Need a Presbyter at the Altar and that he also lay his hands on Brian Horne’s article Homo Hierarchicus and Ecclesial Order. We move on:
Secondly, and in a related fashion, Anglicanism's reliance on apostolic succession is faulty, it seems to me, as Christ himself noted that those who were not apostles and had no apostolic succession had a valid ministry: (Luke 9:49) "John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” Paul had no apostolic succession, but it did not hinder him either: (Gal. 1:12ff) For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ...But when God... was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus."
Classical Anglicans would agree with Pastor Rials that the ministry of the Holy Spirit can’t be confined to the church hierarchy, but to make that acknowledgment is not in any way to gainsay the proposition that Christ, and the apostles after him, DID establish a church order that was not only hierarchical in nature but would need a means of perpetuating itself. Read any book worth its salt on apostolic succession, and it is certainly evident that church order underwent a process of evolution during the first century. However, it became clear by the second and third centuries that a mechanism for episcopal succession was in place. We see it coming into shape as early as the end of the first century, as evidenced in Clement of Rome:
Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.
As the decades and the next few centuries unfolded, patristic testimony to apostolic succession became multiplied. However, it is not in any way necessary to hold the view, as some high church Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics do, that without an apostolic succession there are no valid sacraments or no valid church. That certainly was not the view of Anglican divinity from Cranmer through Hooker. It was only later that this view began to assert itself. Classical Anglicans do not view the bishop as being necessary to the esse of the church, but they tend rather to sort themselves into plene esse and bene esse camps, all of which is to say that the activity of the Holy Spirit can in no way be bound to the canonical boundaries of the church.
Anglicanism's reliance upon the liturgy is also not found in the New Testament, nor is its reliance upon tradition as superior to scripture or its belief in transubstantiation (sic) nor its reliance upon infant baptism, which did not come into the church until 400 years after the apostles. Anglicanism seems to be drifting doctrinally toward Catholicism and LIberalism at the same time. It is a church without a strong sense of purpose, unable to deal with heretical beliefs like homosexuality in the bishopric. I used to consider it a protestant church but I am not sure anymore!
In this paragraph we find a string of wholly false and misinformed assertions. If Pastor Rials would simply read some scholarly works on this history of the Christian liturgy, he will be shown all the indications to be found in the New Testament that the apostolic (which is to say Jewish) church most likely inherited a liturgical form of worship based on the Hebraic form of worship. Classical Anglicanism does not believe in transubstantiation, and nor does Anglo-Catholicism (which tends to gravitate to a more Eastern view of the sacrament). Infant baptism did not appear 400 years after the apostles. We have copious evidence from the 2nd century as to its practice, and as the penetrating exegetical and historical work of Joachim Jeremias demonstrates, there is every reason that Christian paedobaptism is related to Jewish proselyte baptism as a child is related to a parent. Segments of Anglicanism have indeed been drifting toward Catholicism and liberalism ever since the 19th century, but Pastor Rials illogically concludes that what is true of the part must be true of the whole. It makes me wonder if he’s ever examined Anglicanism’s Formularies or read J.I. Packer or John Stott, who are noted representatives of a huge Evangelical Protestant stream in the Anglican Communion and Realignment Anglicanism.
The sum of the matter here, if I may be blunt, is that Pastor Rials really doesn’t have much of an understanding of what it is he rejects in his response to Fr. Doug, but if he’s game, we would be pleased to disabuse him of any other false notions he has of the Anglican Way, as we have done here with respect to the notions expressed in said response. I think if he would simply read the 39 Articles, he’d find a document that is thoroughly Protestant and Evangelical, but he would also find there a document that reflects a catholicity that the AOG simply doesn’t have, and which is why historically-minded Pentecostals have left churches like the AOG and the Vineyard for “Three Stream” Anglican churches, which are aplenty around the world. I would direct his attention to one Pentecostal theologian in particular, Simon Chan, who in his book Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community in essence forces the question of why Pentecostals shouldn’t become Anglicans.
"I do not know how many more lives must Boko Haram kill in the North East and Central Nigeria before the Western powers show they care. Seventeen lives lost in Paris and world leaders show solidarity. More than two thousand lives lost in two days and just passing comments. Almighty God will help us today or tomorrow. Our help is in the name of the Lord who has made the heavens and the earth..." - Bishop Benjamin Kwashi
H/T Fr. Matt Kennedy.
I have long lamented the failure of men and women to arm themselves against Islamists, Christians in particular who falsely believe that Biblical theology requires pacifism, noting that it is a moral failure to ignore the protection of family and self. . . .
That there are men who allow women, children and the elderly to perish while they run away scared doesn’t bode well for the future of Nigeria. For men who believe there is nothing after death – that a body cools to ambient temperature and there is nothing more – running away scared may make sense. For Christians, there are more important things that staying alive because death is just the beginning of our life in eternity.
And finally, don’t be fooled by the recent Islamic violence in France. The Islamists don’t really care about cartoons in the face of more important things. They just can’t find anyone left in France who believes anything to attack. Now, if they hear Christians with one voice, saying something like this:
- I believe in God,
- the Father almighty,
- Creator of heaven and earth,
- and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
- who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
- born of the Virgin Mary,
- suffered under Pontius Pilate,
- was crucified, died and was buried;
- he descended into hell;
- on the third day he rose again from the dead;
- he ascended into heaven,
- and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
- from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the holy christian Church,
- the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and life everlasting. Amen.
Then the real enemy of Islam has spoken. Islam is darkness, and it cannot abide the light. Since it cannot abide the light, it won’t allow a marketplace of ideas where truth can be discerned from falsehood. Arm yourselves. Prepare to do battle. It’s coming whether you know it or not.
Theologically, Protestantism was either a recovery, or a development, or an exaggeration (it is not for the literary historian to say which) of Pauline theology. Hence in Buchanan’s Franciscus ad Fratres the Friars’ prophylactic against it is to keep clear of the ‘old man from Tarsus.’ …
All the initiative has been on God’s side; all has been free, unbounded grace. His own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would have been to achieve it in the first place. Fortunately they need not. Bliss is not for sale, cannot be earned. ‘Works’ have no ‘merit’, though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once. He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved. It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang.
For it must be clearly understood that they were at first doctrines not of terror but of joy and hope: indeed, more than hope, fruition, for as Tyndale says, the converted man is already tasting eternal life. The doctrine of predestination, says the XVIIth Article, is ‘full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons.’ But what of ungodly persons? Inside the original experience no such question arises. There are no generalizations. We are not building a system. When we begin to do so, very troublesome problems and very dark solutions will appear. But these horrors, so familiar to the modern reader (and especially to the modern reader of fiction), are only by-products of the new theology. They are astonishingly absent from the thought of the first Protestants. Relief and buoyancy are the characteristic notes. In a single sentence of the Tischreden Luther tosses the question aside for ever. Do you doubt whether you are elected to salvation? Then say your prayers, man, and you may conclude that you are. It is as easy as that.
It follows that nearly every association which now clings to the word puritan has to be eliminated when we are thinking of the early Protestants. Whatever they were, they were not sour, gloomy, or severe; nor did their enemies bring such charges against them. On the contrary, Harpsfield (in his Life of More) describes their doctrines as ‘easie, short, pleasant lessons’ which lulled their unwary victim in ‘so sweete a sleepe as he was euer after loth to wake from it.’ For More, a Protestant was one ‘dronke of the new must of lwed lightnes of minde and vayne gladnesse of harte.’ Luther, he said, had made converts precisely because ‘he spiced al the poison’ with ‘libertee.’ Protestantism was not too grim, but too glad, to be true; ‘I could for my part be verie wel content that sin and pain all were as shortlye gone as Tyndale telleth us.’ Protestants are not ascetics but sensualists.
“I am a Clergyman it is true, but I am a member of the Society as well as the poorest Layman, and my Liberty is as dear to me as any man, shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at Home when the best Blood of the Continent is spilling?...so far am I from thinking that I act wrong, I am convinced it is my duty to do so and duty I owe to God and my country.” -- Peter Muhlenberg, Pastor, Colonel of Virginia militia, 1775 and later Major General, Continental Army.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom of God continues to leaven the world, and if the West does not return, then, quite literally, to hell with the West (which hell will undoubtedly look much like the Dar al Islam).
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .
In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.
But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.
Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.
In this descent and re-ascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life re-ascends.
It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult.
So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a re-ascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth–go down to go up–it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.
The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Re-birth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and re-ascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation. - C.S. Lewis
I just stumbled upon this article from the Westminster Theological Journal, which responds to N.T. Wright and Robert Gundry on imputation. The summary section of this article is entitled Imputation: A "Protestant Given", and it is this givenness about which I want to say a few words here.
I have spoken previously here at OJC about Anglican academic types who are devotees of the late Bishop of Durham and who speak as though New Perspective vs. Old Perspective is now a closed case, with the former clearly, in their minds, superseding the latter. I get the distinct impression, however, that these Anglicans give Tom Wright a pass on this issue largely because he's "our guy", because he's so right on other matters, and because he's such an engaging, top shelf scholar. But we need to be listening closely to critics of the NPP, because if we don't have justification right, that is a serious thing indeed, especially if Luther was right in his assessment that it is the article on which the church stands or falls.
If Luther was right, then it follows that justification, understood as the imputed righteousness of Christ (its formal cause) through a grace-given faith (its instrumental cause), is a "Protestant given", which is to say just as "settled" an article of faith for Protestants as orthodox triadology and christology are for Protestants and Catholics alike. All the great Protestant confessions teach imputation, and I would argue along with J.I. Packer that the Anglican confession, the 39 Articles, carries the same authority for the Anglican Christian as the creeds. It is to those confessions we look for our belief on the matter, and not to the latest academic fad.
Yes, I'm saying the NPP has taken on the characteristics of a fad. And like all fads, it quickly and easily morphs into the next fad. This morning I saw a statement from an Anglican academic who, citing this article, summarizes it by saying,
The old perspective Paul vs. the new perspective Paul is now over. The new debate will be between the new perspective Paul vs. the apocalyptic Paul. . . .
The conversation is shifting to this debate. From now on academics will be posing new perspective understandings (Sanders to Wright) against apocalyptic readings (Käsemann and Martyn and Campbell).
Except that it won't be "from now on", but only until the next generation of theological scholars displaces this new controversy with its own set of thought experiments and deconstructive theories, along with the same kind of insinuations we hear from NPP devotees that those folks in the church who aren't keeping up with them are fearful obscurantists bent only on preserving the past. Many of these scholars purport to be "conservative", but as discussed here, there is a real question as to whether conservative (or "orthodox") faith can exist in the academy, especially the Protestant academy.
And why stop at Paul's soteriology? What's to stop N.T. Wright or any other "conservative" Protestant academic from deconstructing orthodox triadology and christology? After all, the Fathers' theological method was arguably tainted by Neoplatonistic and other Hellenistic philosophies, which were not shared by Peter, John, James and Paul. Semper Reformanda!
I am currently reading C. F. Allison's The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter, in which the author argues that the later Caroline Divines, who were much preoccupied with what they perceived to be the antinomian tendencies of the Reformational teaching on justification -- where the imputed righteousness of Christ was believed to be justification's formal cause -- departed from the earlier, arguably orthodox, Anglican view defended by Hooker, et al. This, argues Allison, led to the rise of a more moralistic soteriology, which later morphed into latitudianism and finally modern Anglican theological radicalism, and influencing "less directly", writes the author, "the Wesleyans and the Tractarians." All of these mutations occurred largely in the setting of the Anglican academy, bringing much of the church with it in its tow.
The article on which the church stands or falls. . . .
This is why I argue that orthodox Anglicans ought to start viewing the academy and its denizens with more of a gimlet eye, and ask themselves the question why, if imputation can be so summarily dispensed with because some notable "conservative" Anglican scholar says so, the same kind of criticism can't be turned on the Nicene Creed. Or to put it another way, do we orthodox Anglicans have "givens" or not?
J.I. Packer - Sola Fide: The Reformed Doctrine of Justification
On the NPP and the claims of Roman and Anglo-Catholics, see:
If it only weren’t for (Anglo-Catholicism’s) rejection of the claim, often attributed to Martin Luther, that justification by grace alone through faith alone “is the article by which the church stands and falls.” Because that article, to us Protestants, constitutes the essence of the Christian Gospel. Again, (Aidan) Nichols:
Contrast a modern Anglo-Catholic who asserts that:
the centre if Paul’s theology is not justification by faith, but rather participation in the body of Christ, and the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile,
and taking justification by faith itself as:
meaning one can only live a truly good life through incorporation in the social body dedicated to Christ’s memory – out of the resources which this provides. . .
writes off as ‘residual Lutheranism’ any anxiety that here ‘social elements’ are displacing ‘theological ones’ (Citing J. Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Oxford 1990), p. 120)
Mr. Jordan observes:
To become the dominant church party in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in the twentieth century liberals would borrow extensively from the play book of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement.
Those who dismiss the likelihood of the Anglo-Catholic - philo-Orthodox element in the Anglican Church in North America further carrying out their policy of not making room in that denomination for Anglicans who subscribe to the Anglican confessional formularies and the Biblical and Reformed teaching on which they are based and are committed to a Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical vision of the Anglican Church in particular need to read Gough's essay.